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Harris heads to Dubai to tackle climate change, Israel-Hamas war

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris will tackle two delicate tasks this weekend in Dubai: She’ll try to demonstrate U.S. environmental leadership despite President Joe Biden’s notable absence from an annual summit on climate change and she’ll work to nudge forward fragile efforts to shape the next phase of the war between Israel and Hamas.

A White House official, who insisted on anonymity to preview Harris’ meetings, said she would sit down with regional leaders and outline proposals to “put Palestinian voices at the center” of planning next steps for the Gaza Strip after the conflict.

The goal, the official said, is to have “a clear political horizon for the Palestinian people” that will ultimately bring together Gaza and the West Bank under unified leadership. Hamas terrorists run the Gaza Strip while the Palestinian Authority administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Biden and other administration officials have increasingly emphasized the need for an eventual two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian nation coexisting, as the war continues. The White House has faced criticism at home and abroad for its steadfast support for Israel.

Administration officials have defended Biden’s approach, saying that he’s relied on his closeness with Israeli leadership to successfully advocate for more humanitarian aid for Palestinians and a truce that lasted several days, enabling the release of some hostages held by Hamas terrorists. The pause in fighting ended on Friday.

Harris has a narrow opportunity to accomplish her goals while she’s in the United Arab Emirates.

She left Washington on Friday and is scheduled to appear only briefly at the United Nations conference known as COP28. The White House official said she would deliver remarks and participate in a meeting on renewable energy with other leaders on Saturday.

Like most vice presidents, Harris is expected to hew tightly to administration talking points on controversial issues where any divergence could ricochet around the globe. Her public remarks, however limited, will be closely scrutinized.

Details on Harris’ schedule remain scarce and the trip appears to have been hastily arranged. As recently as last week, the vice president’s staff said she had no plans to attend the climate conference. White House officials have not explained the change in plans.

The vice president is set to announce several initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as support multi-nation adaptation of plans and efforts to boost climate resilience, senior administration officials said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, special envoy John Kerry and climate adviser Ali Zaidi are attending as well.

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